Commentary: What does freedom mean?

Everyone wants to be free. America was born on the shared value of freedom that ran deep in the hearts of the first patriots and Founders. Most every nation in the world desires the freedom found between our shores. A grassroots rally cry has been sounded in recent months for a return to greater levels of freedom while rejecting current policies that would restrict freedom.

The Founders, and the philosophers that influenced them, had a very unique idea to build a nation where the people would be free. Thus, they set out to build a limited government by the people and for the people. A government that would not be the granter of freedom, but it’s most ardent protector for this government would be elected and held accountable by the people.

The Founding Fathers were very clear in their thoughts concerning the nature of such a free people. They encouraged, with great enthusiasm and urgency, that the education of the people always include instruction from the Christian Bible. Now, in these days there were no public schools. There was no Department of Education. There were only community schools usually tied into the local church that shared the one room school house facility. There were also home schooling and private tutoring depending on ones economic status.

The Founders view on this is evidenced by these quotations by James Madison:

“It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

The Founders saw it as instrumental to securing a free nation that the citizens of this nation govern themselves. The only way they could be free, is if they did not need a governing authority to make laws guarding their conduct. Thus they frequently wrote that people be instructed in Biblical morality and to make that and the law of nature (what they saw as the unwritten laws known in our conscious) our external guide to maintaining our liberty. In their opinion, if we behaved ourselves we would have little need of the government keeping us in order by excessive laws and punishments.

However, as good as this plan is it stopped short of the freedom that is available to people. The Founders way would ensure a great deal of freedom never before established on a national level to this magnitude. They took it as far as it could logically go at the level in which they were speaking about it.

It is true that self-governance prevents the national government from becoming necessarily restrictive thereby allowing an optimum level of freedom; however, there is still a greater freedom that one can experience. To clarify, a person that is governed by adhering to a moral law whether Biblically founded or otherwise is not yet free. Freedom is something that is birthed from a free nature rather than something that is achieved through moral education.

A predominant view of God both by Christians and non-Christians is that we need (or think we need) the Bible and God’s laws in order to be good. Furthermore, that we need the threat of the judgment or displeasure of God to behave ourselves. Such a life is not a free life. That is not a relationship of a Father and His child, but one of a dictator and servant. So often parenting imitates the latter rather than the former reinforcing this view of the tyrant God that shows His love through a series of punishments.

The child who does what is right because he is in right relationship with his parents and cares about what they care about is far more free than the child who behaves rightly to avoid punishment or to earn their favor.

Freedom, then, is achieved when a person is aligned by choice and relational experience to the righteous nature of God. It’s that chosen tangible connection within that produces the freedom without. It is when the heart of God is reproduced in the willing heart of man that freedom explodes into every fabric of the person’s life. At this junction of our journey in life we experience freedom like never before. We realize who we are and that we have no need to struggle against who we are not. Our fleshly nature does not need to battle our new nature for the old has died and the new is alive and well. The closer we are to living from our true nature acquired through redemption the closer we are to living in freedom.

Most of us who have grown up in church have lived with the idea that this kind of freedom cannot be tasted until we die and go to heaven where we are finally free. While some may have never reached it on earth, it can be reached because we see Jesus modeling it for us on earth. Jesus always lived responding to His Father’s heart and not to any external pressures, circumstances, temptations, or distractions. Jesus said that He went to prepare a place for us in heaven. That is a place we have access to in our present life and not something reserved for the afterlife. When we live from above we will taste the freedom of which I speak, but if we live like we are earthbound and heaven hopeful we push into the future what is already at hand.